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Ownership Unbundling of Electricity Distribution Networks

Author

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  • Paul Nillesen

    () (Strategy& (part of PwC) Dansk Energi, PwC, Cambridge University)

  • Michael G. Pollitt

    (Energy Policy Research Group, Judge Business School University of Cambridge)

Abstract

Traditional restructuring of power markets has focused on legally separating monopolistic transmission and distribution infrastructure, with sufficient regulatory oversight to ensure non-discriminatory access to networks, and transparent and cost-reflective tariffs. There is consensus that ownership separation for transmission assets is beneficial for competition and transparency. However, at the distribution level the benefits are questionable. This paper reviews the theoretical arguments for ownership unbundling and summarises the findings from 23 academic papers and consulting reports. In addition, this paper empirically demonstrates that forced distribution ownership unbundling in New Zealand (from 1998) and the Netherlands (from 2009) did not increase retail competition (and reduced it in New Zealand), did not increase network quality, but did result in significant one-off and structural costs. The pros and cons of DSO ownership unbundling is topical given current policy discussions in Denmark and the more general changes to the operating environment of DSOs with increasingly active networks due to decentralised renewables production and bi-directional power flows. Policymakers should therefore consider alternative policy measures to increase retail competition and network quality.
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Nillesen & Michael G. Pollitt, 2019. "Ownership Unbundling of Electricity Distribution Networks," Working Papers EPRG 1905, Energy Policy Research Group, Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.
  • Handle: RePEc:enp:wpaper:eprg1905
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Mulder, M. & Willems, Bert, 2016. "Competition in Retail Electricity Markets : An Assessment of Ten Years Dutch Experience," Discussion Paper 2016-011, Tilburg University, Tilburg Law and Economic Center.
    2. Slade, Margaret E, 1998. "Beer and the Tie: Did Divestiture of Brewer-Owned Public Houses Lead to Higher Beer Prices?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(448), pages 565-602, May.
    3. Willems, Bert & Mulder, M., 2016. "Competition in Retail Electricity Markets : An Assessment of Ten Years Dutch Experience," Discussion Paper 2016-011, Tilburg University, Tilburg Law and Economic Center.
    4. Greer, Monica L., 2008. "A test of vertical economies for non-vertically integrated firms: The case of rural electric cooperatives," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 679-687, May.
    5. John Kwoka & Michael Pollitt & Sanem Sergici, 2010. "Divestiture policy and operating efficiency in U.S. electric power distribution," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 38(1), pages 86-109, August.
    6. Baarsma, Barbara & de Nooij, Michiel & Koster, Weero & van der Weijden, Cecilia, 2007. "Divide and rule. The economic and legal implications of the proposed ownership unbundling of distribution and supply companies in the Dutch electricity sector," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 1785-1794, March.
    7. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
    8. Roland Meyer, 2011. "Vertical Economies and the Costs of Separating Electricity Supply-A Review of Theoretical and Empirical Literature," Bremen Energy Working Papers 0006, Bremen Energy Research.
    9. Kunneke, Rolf & Fens, Theo, 2007. "Ownership unbundling in electricity distribution: The case of The Netherlands," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 1920-1930, March.
    10. Fetz, Aurelio & Filippini, Massimo, 2010. "Economies of vertical integration in the Swiss electricity sector," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 1325-1330, November.
    11. Yanrui Wu & Xunpeng Shi & Fukunari Kimura & Yu Sheng & Youngho Chang & Yanfei Li & Sun Xuegong & Guo Liyan & Zeng Zheng & Daisy Shen & Qing Yang & Kongchheng Poch & Savong Tuy & Sekar Utami Setiastuti, . "Energy Market Integration in East Asia: Theories, Electricity Sector and Subsidies," Books, Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), number 2011-rpr-17 edited by Yanrui Wu & Xunpeng Shi & Fukunari Kimura, Winter.
    12. Machiel Mulder & Victoria Shestalova & Mark Lijesen, 2005. "Vertical separation of the energy-distribution industry; an assessment of several options for unbundling," CPB Document 84, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    13. Filippini, Massimo & Wetzel, Heike, 2014. "The impact of ownership unbundling on cost efficiency: Empirical evidence from the New Zealand electricity distribution sector," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 412-418.
    14. Giovanni Fraquelli & Massimiliano Piacenza & Davide Vannoni, 2005. "Cost Savings From Generation and Distribution with an Application to Italian Electric Utilities," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 289-308, November.
    15. Paul Nillesen & Michael Pollitt, 2011. "Ownership Unbundling in Electricity Distribution: Empirical Evidence from New Zealand," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 38(1), pages 61-93, January.
    16. Sinan K├╝feoglu & Michael Pollitt & Karim Anaya, 2018. "Electric Power Distribution in the World: Today and Tomorrow," Working Papers EPRG 1826, Energy Policy Research Group, Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.
    17. Mulder, M. & Willems, Bert, 2016. "Competition in Retail Electricity Markets : An Assessment of Ten Years Dutch Experience," Discussion Paper 2016-011, Tilburg University, Tilburg Law and Economic Center.
    18. Arocena, Pablo, 2008. "Cost and quality gains from diversification and vertical integration in the electricity industry: A DEA approach," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 39-58, January.
    19. Hay, Donald A & Liu, Guy S, 1997. "The Efficiency of Firms: What Difference Does Competition Make?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(442), pages 597-617, May.
    20. Geoff Bertram & Dan Twaddle, 2005. "Price-Cost Margins and Profit Rates in New Zealand Electricity Distribution Networks Since 1994: the Cost of Light Handed Regulation," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 27(3), pages 281-308, January.
    21. Jara-Diaz, Sergio & Ramos-Real, Francisco Javier & Martinez-Budria, Eduardo, 2004. "Economies of integration in the Spanish electricity industry using a multistage cost function," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 995-1013, November.
    22. Michael G. Pollitt, 2018. "Electricity Network Charging in the Presence of Distributed Energy Resources: Principles, Problems and Solutions," Economics of Energy & Environmental Policy, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1).
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    Cited by:

    1. Rabindra Nepal & John Foster & Antonio Carvalho, 2014. "Revisiting Electricity Liberalization and Security of Supply: Empirical Evidence," Energy Economics and Management Group Working Papers 7-2014, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia.
    2. Paul Simshauser, 2020. "Merchant utilities and boundaries of the firm: vertical integration in energy-only markets," Working Papers EPRG2008, Energy Policy Research Group, Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    electricity distribution; ownership unbundling;

    JEL classification:

    • L94 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Electric Utilities

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